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Can science on transformation transform science? Lessons from co-design

‘Co-design’ is increasingly prominent as a key concept and approach in global change and sustainability research, in the scholarship on science–policy interactions, and an expressed expectation in research programmes and initiatives. This paper situates co-design and then synthesizes insights from real-life experiences of co-developing research projects under the Transformations to Sustainability programme seed grant phase.

It highlights common co-design elements (parameters and considerations of co-design and purpose-driven engagement activities), discusses challenges experienced in co-design, and then emphasizes a range of rarely articulated benefits of co-design for both researchers, societal partners and the work they aim to do together. The paper summarizes some of the knowledge gains on social transformation to sustainability from the co-design phase of the T2S seed grants and concludes that co-design as a process is an agent of transformation itself.

This article was published open access in a special edition of Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (Vol. 20, June 2016, Pages 106-115).


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